Fight for CDU chairmanship: Which competitors Merz has to bow out of the way

Finale in the fight for the CDU party chairmanship. On Saturday over 300 CDU district chairmen voted to let the members decide on the new CDU chairmanship. Favorite of the base and therefore favorite in the party presidency race: Friedrich Merz (65)!

BUT: Merz is of course not the only candidate for the CDU top office.

BILD presents Merz and his toughest potential rivals: Ex-Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (56), Health Minister and Party Vice Jens Spahn (41), Union parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus (53) and CDU SME leader Carsten Linnemann (44).

Friedrich Merz

Merz is considered socio-politically conservative and is assigned to the economically liberal wing of the CDU. As part of Laschet’s future team in this year’s election campaign, he represented financial and economic policy issues.

▶ ︎ Excitement about Merz: In November 2018, he assigned himself to the middle class in the BILD talk “The right questions” – as a millionaire.

Favorite of the CDU base: Friedrich Merz (65)Photo: INA FASSBENDER/AFP

► Minus point: Merz has already applied for party chairmanship twice – twice without success.

He has not yet officially confirmed that he is running for a third time. At the beginning of October he said this was a question he had “not dealt with conclusively”. He had ruled out a candidacy in the event of a fight vote at a party congress. The member survey would now benefit him as a grassroots favorite.

► Plus point: Merz is not only a grassroots favorite, an exclusive survey also sees him as a suitable party chairman: The opinion research institute INSA asked more than 1000 people for BILD who they trust to lead the CDU out of the crisis as party chairman .

The most suitable candidate with 15 percent approval: Merz. Among the Union voters surveyed, approval is even greater, with 24 percent trusting Merz to find the way out of the crisis.

And: Merz seems to have a plan for the way to the party chairmanship: As BILD reported, he is already working on the formation of a top team. The goal: to give other possible applicants no chance in a member survey.

Merz wants to bring Spahn into the team and also find an amicable solution with Linnemann. Corresponding discussions are ongoing.

CDU boss and CDU federal executive Christoph Ploß (36) said on Monday morning at BILD Live that he saw Merz in the future in an “important role” in the party. “We will definitely need Friedrich Merz up front. It has to play a very, very important role. “

Ploß emphasized that by the weekend “it may already be clear how possible teams have been formed together. Because it’s not just about one person at the top, it’s about a team. “

Jens Spahn

Is he “Team Merz” or a Merz competitor?

It is still unclear how Jens Spahn feels about the Merz proposal to form a team. Spahn has experience with team solutions: In the last CDU chairman election, he himself decided not to run and instead supported Armin Laschet. Laschet won, Spahn became party vice-president in January 2021.

Health Minister Jens Spahn

Health Minister Jens SpahnPhoto: POOL/REUTERS

Spahn has been a member of the Bundestag since 2002 and Minister of Health since 2018.

In 2018 he applied for the CDU chairmanship himself, but was defeated in the first ballot to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Friedrich Merz.

At 41, Spahn would be the youngest of the potential Laschet successors. Nothing new: he was also the youngest member of the Merkel cabinet. Like Merz, Spahn belongs to the conservative camp of the CDU.

Carsten Linnemann

“I am in favor of a team solution,” said Carsten Linnemann on ARD about the Laschet successor. He himself “likes to play a role in a team, in whatever function.” You have to leave ego trips behind, according to the economic politician.

Carsten Linnemann appeals for a team solution

Carsten Linnemann appeals for a team solutionPhoto: Friso Gentsch / dpa

Linnemann advocated a member survey to elect the CDU chairman.

In the INSA survey of who could lead the CDU out of the crisis as party leader, Linnemann came off badly: only three percent of those questioned believed the economist could do this job.

Norbert Röttgen

Merz’s toughest possible competitor?

In an interview with “Deutschlandfunk” on Monday, Norbert Röttgen warned against an overly conservative orientation of the party – Röttgen himself is assigned to the liberal wing of the CDU and sees himself as a representative of “the modern center” of the party.

The new party leader must be “in the middle”, demands Norbert Röttgen

The new party leader must be “in the middle”, demands Norbert RöttgenPhoto: JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

The party needs “conservative ideas, conservative politics and politicians,” said Röttgen. BUT: This only reflects part of the diverse positions at the party base.

It is therefore clear to him that the new party leader must “stand in the middle”.

Even if Röttgen has not yet officially commented on a possible candidacy, it is said that the ex-environment minister wants to run for party chairmanship in any case. He is only moderately popular at the grassroots level.

On Tuesday, the CDU Presidium and the Federal Executive Committee will decide whether the 400,000 members currently present should be questioned for the first time when deciding on the future party chairman.

Röttgen himself seems to assess his perception within the party base more positively: It is true that there is some desire in the party for a more conservative orientation, said Röttgen. “But it is far from the fact that that is the majority of our members.” Anyone who claims this “in any case has no idea about this basis”.

Röttgen has already had a failed party chair application: In January 2021, he was defeated by Friedrich Merz and Armin Laschet in the election for party chairman in the first ballot.

Ralph Brinkhaus

He is also traded as a candidate for the party chairmanship: Union faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus.

Ralph Brinkhaus

Ralph BrinkhausPhoto: Michael Kappeler / dpa

Brinkhaus is considered conservative and has been a member of the Bundestag since 2009. BUT: Brinkhaus has not yet officially commented on a candidacy.

So far there is no woman in the alleged field of applicants.

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Fight for CDU chairmanship: Which competitors Merz has to bow out of the way